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El Salvador backpacking route: 2 weeks

4 May 2023

Together with six other backpackers, I crossed the border from Guatemala to El Salvador in October 2021. During the two weeks that followed, we travelled through El Salvador as a group without having planned this in advance. After a lot of hitchhiking, market visits, chicken bus rides and hostel stays, we continued our solo journeys again. We all collected great memories, thanks to a country we had all fallen a little in love with by now. This travel overview for El Salvador will take you through Santa Ana, la Ruta de las Flores, El Tunco and San Salvador.

  1. Santa Ana
  2. La Ruta de las Flores
  3. El Tunco
  4. San Salvador

Also read: The best hostels in El Salvador for solo travellers

Santa Ana – 4 nights

Santa Ana is the second-largest city in El Salvador after the capital, San Salvador. It doesn’t feel that way, due to the many low-rise buildings and the colonial influences. The old centre with its straight streets is reasonably well-arranged. You can stroll through the local markets and visit the beautiful churches. Santa Ana is also a great city for day trips.

How to get from Guatemala to Santa Ana

You can cross the border from Guatemala to El Salvador by using local transport, but since this was my first border crossing in Central America, I liked the idea of going on a shuttle bus. The shuttle from Antigua to Santa Ana cost me 320 GTQ in 2021, about €38. The shuttle company is called Aviatur and has an office in the famous street of El Arco de Santa Catalina.

To do in Santa Ana

  • Try the local pupusas in Mercado Central
  • People watching in Parque Libertad
  • Stroll through the market at Parque Isidro Menéndez
  • Experience the local market life at Mercado Colon
  • Hike Volcán de Santa Ana
  • Spend a sunny afternoon at Lago de Coatepeque
  • Discover the hot spring and waterfall at el Salto de Malacatiupan

La Ruta de las Flores – 3 nights

La Ruta de las Flores (The Flower Route) consists of five picturesque villages connected by chicken buses and minivans, which allow you to easily get from one village to the next in a day. We decided to spend the night in the fairly centrally located Apaneca, from where we visited Ataco and Juayua. This area is known for its many coffee plantations, so if you want to do a coffee tour during your trip, this would be a fitting spot!

How to get from Santa Ana to Apaneca

Santa Ana’s largest bus station (Terminal de Buses Francisco Lara Pineda) is located next to Mercado Colón. You can safely say that it is a real adventure to get from place A to B by bus in Salvador. They don’t seem to have a clear schedule, and sometimes a bus doesn’t show up at all. No worries; all roads lead to Rome!

It cost us 3 USD to end up in Apaneca with a detour from Santa Ana. Ask the locals at the bus station which bus number you should take.

To do in La Ruta de las Flores

  • Coffee tour
  • Ziplining, a maze and other activities at Laberinto de Apaneca
  • Visit Juayua on a Saturday for street food
  • Take a tour to Laguna Verde
  • Shop homemade products at the market around Parque Fray Rafael Fernandez (Ataco)
  • Enjoy a cheap local breakfast at Yulu Ne Gascu (Ataco)

El Tunco – 2 nights

One of the most popular surfing villages along the coast of El Salvador. El Tunco mainly consists of ho(s)tels, surf shops and restaurants. Even if you don’t surf (like me), a visit to El Tunco can be worthwhile. Keep in mind that the ocean here is usually quite rough, and the beach is mainly rocky, so this might not be the place for a relaxed day at the beach.

How to get from Apaneca to El Tunco

Since we would have had to transfer multiple times to take the bus from Apaneca to El Tunco and we were with a group of seven people, we tried to find a shuttle instead. The company Impronta Turistica El Salvador took us to the coast with a pickup for 11 USD per person. A beautiful ride in the trunk of this 4×4!

To do in El Tunco

  • Take surfing classes
  • Eat vegetarian food at Jungle SV
  • Shop at the local (surf) shops
  • Day trip to El Zonte
  • Watch the sunset on the beach

San Salvador – 5 nights

A capital that is slowly getting rid of its bad reputation. There is plenty to do in and around San Salvador, so there is no reason to skip this historic and vibrant city! It is most recommended staying in La Zona Rosa, where you will see many Western influences. From the hospital, you can easily take the chicken bus (number 42B) to the (old) centre for about 30 USD cents.

How to get from El Tunco to San Salvador

If you walk out of El Tunco and wait along the main road, a chicken bus will pass by, which will take you to the capital for about 3 USD.

To do in San Salvador

  • Go out in la Zona Rosa
  • Discover the old centre on foot
  • Have a (cheap!) drink at Cervecería Chapultepec
  • Have a (fancy) drink at Eleven club in Bambu City Centre
  • Tour of the National Palace ($5)
  • People watching in Parque Cuscatlán
  • Visit the colourful “TikTok-famous” Imagine Slide at Picnic Steak House ($5)
  • Day trip to Suchitoto (the former capital of El Salvador)
  • Have a chill afternoon at Lago Suchitlan

My route in summary

  • Santa Ana: 4 nights
  • Apaneca: 3 nights
  • El Tunco: 2 nights
  • San Salvador: 5 nights

Alternative 1-week route: pit stop Guatemala – Nicaragua

  • Santa Ana: 3 nights
  • Juayúa: 2 nights
  • El Tunco: 2 nights

Alternative 2-week route: bird’s-eye view El Salvador

  • Santa Ana: 3 nights
  • Apaneca: 2 nights
  • Juayúa: 2 nights
  • El Tunco: 3 nights
  • San Salvador: 3 nights
  • Suchitoto: 1 night

Alternative 3-week route: adventure and surfing

  • Santa Ana: 4 nights
  • Apaneca: 3 nights
  • El Tunco: 4 nights
  • El Zonte: 4 nights
  • San Salvador: 3 nights
  • Suchitoto: 2 nights

On to the next destination: Honduras!

Are you planning a backpacking trip around Latin America? Have a look at my other destinationsin Latin America.

Do you have any questions about my travels, or do you see a great opportunity to collaborate? Feel free to send me a message on Instagram DM or

About Flora Flies

About Flora Flies – I believe travelling can be a way of living. A way to develop yourself. As long as you create yourself that opportunity. Slow solo travel is my answer to that.